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Happy Birthday Nintendo Game Boy, But You're Responsible For The Worst Album Ever

'We Punk Einheit!' is the most pointless and wretched record I have ever heard.

by Kit Macdonald
28 April 2014, 2:30pm

As entirely separate entities, the majority of us would probably agree that the Nintendo Game Boy (which turned 25 years old this month) and Alec Empire (who turns a bit more than that in a few days) are both good things. The simple joys of the Game Boy are a part of the shared heritage of most people between 20 and 40, while Alec Empire has also been entertaining us since the early 1990s with his mix of crazed stage presence, firebrand hard-left politics and great tracks under his own name, his band Atari Teenage Riot, and a wide variety of other aliases.

Two rights sometimes make a wrong however, and that's what happened when these two good things briefly came together in 1999 to produce the inexplicable, inexcusable We Punk Einheit!, which Empire released on his own DHR label under the name Nintendo Teenage Robots.

Created solely using a Nintendo Game Boy, it included absolutely no giddy, Input 64-style chiptune euphoria, nor any of the thrilling aural punishment that DHR more normally meted out on the regular during the late 90s. Instead, we got 26 agonising tracks of inspiration-free bleepery-pokery, enlivened only by the record's hilarious cover claptrap about there being some sort of Mods vs Rockers Game Boy scene war in Berlin:

"Two movements attacking each other with the sound of static bleeps. One Game Boy scene is putting up exhibitions at art galleries – overproduced melodic Game Boy songs with reverbs and delays. The other scene is called 'Out' and is doing abstract futuristic cold atmospheric dance parties at disco clubs. A different sound: Game Boy straight into DAT or CD recorder...Alec Empire is involved in the second [scene]."

Riiiight. Here, then, is my lovingly assembled track-by-track retrospective of what is presumably the "Out" scene's Sgt Pepper's; otherwise known as the most pointless and wretched record I have ever heard.

'No Humanity Allowed'

According to We Punk Einheit's one and only Amazon review, this dispiriting, one-and-a-half-minute random-bleep abomination "sounds like Autechre if they picked up some equipment back in 1983". No m8, you're thinking of Zoviet-France. This sounds like Autechre if they'd just sustained some extremely major head injuries, and were desperately trying to communicate by poking at the keyboard of a ZX Spectrum that had just had a cup of coffee spilt over it. Although, given a choice between this and Quaristice...

'Get Inline'

So it really is all going to be like this then. A gurning, four-note loop with bonus swooshy bits. In 1999, I think this is where I cut my losses and got back to Merzbow's latest opus. In 2014, no such luck. 

'No Disease Sex'

The word "sex" has no business here.

'The Machines Survive'

Haunting duet with Kate Bush, inspired by a heartbreaking photograph of a depression-era family in the American dust bowl. Ah no, sorry, I'm thinking of 'Don't Give Up'. Sometimes my brain clicks into a kind of "survival mode" when I have to listen to the world's most boring robot reciting the phone book in Morse code.

'50 Years Later'

The same robot doing the same thing as above, but with 3% less passion and gusto.

'At The Party'

Hey, this one's not bad! Part of it almost sounds like a Game Boy version of a flamboyant saxophone riff - if you narrow your eyes, lower your standards, and are only very vaguely acquainted with what a saxophone sounds like.

'I Don't Get The Printer'

Presumably, as this plinky-plonk packet of bollocks dribbled to a close Alec Empire let out a satisfied sigh, kicked back in his recordin' chair, and allowed the endorphin rush of a job well done to wash over him, much like Aphex Twin probably did when he finished 'Xtal'. Unbelievable.

'NNW'

The world's most boring robot attaches a microphone to an emery board and files its robot nails, while its camp robot friend pontificates about Elton John in the background.

'Condom Personality'

Unpleasant acid-reflux "melody" meets grinding mess of low tones. Sort of fine, in a dreadful sort of way.

'CD Jockey Take Over'

This one is nearly six minutes long, and I was all like "fucked if I'm listening to this all the way through", but to be fair it sort of goes somewhere, namely from not echoey to a bit echoey. One for the "Forgotten Classics" file guys.

'Everything Is Forbidden'

A conversation-starter of a title. I mean, say what you like about the Taliban, but they'd be down on this kind of thing like a ton of bricks.

'Nothing Is Allowed'

You'd think the sound of a mechanical swarm of bees attacking a panicked, mechanical billy goat would sound faintly interesting, but you'd be wrong.

'Dollars'

This one probably qualifies as the album's Jeff Mills-style techno banger, in that it's so basic and unadorned that it's possible to completely ignore it if you want. And you do want.

'Funk Was Yesterday'

There's a sort of arpeggiated bit in the middle of this one that briefly distracted me from my complete despair at having volunteered to do this, so cheers for that Alec.

Invasion Control

This one actually kind of has a tune, which seems an odd move given what's come before it. I think if this had been the sort of album that had singles released from it this would have been the first one, with remixes by the big underground producers of the day: Lo-Fidelity Allstars, Regular Fries, and Slobodan Milosevic. 

'Beatles Never Counted'

Again, this maintains a faintly diverting abrasive quality for a minute or so. If the last couple of tracks had been at the start of the album then We Punk Einheit! might have spent the last 15 years in the "Almost Certainly The Worst Thing I Will Ever Hear" drawer in my brain, instead of the "Definitely The Worst Thing I Will Ever Hear" drawer. What might have been, eh.

'Fuck Me D/A Style'

I think this means "fuck me digital-to-analogue-style", which of course makes tons of sense. Goes a bit noisy at the end: second single, remixes from Jamie Theakston and Fischerspooner.

'Untitled'

The first of nine – nine, mind you – tracks on this offering that Empire couldn't even be arsed to name. I know that deep down you wanted to call this "Am I Allowed To Go Home Now?", Alec, so that's what I'll be calling it from now on. If I ever think or talk about it again, which I won't.

'Untitled'

Some very poorly rendered vuvuzela sounds being funnelled methodically through the tiny metal anus of a clockwork mouse. 

'Untitled'

This one's 16 seconds long, which instantly places it in the "major highlight" category. 

'Untitled'

This one, not entirely surprisingly, is a skittery load of rubbish. Goes really slow near the end, for want of anything more worthwhile to do.

'Untitled'

I suppose it's more amazing that he could think of titles for the other 17 tracks. Trying to find the positives in all this hideousness.

'Untitled'

Just seeing out the clock now. I feel a terrifying blankness inside, like George Osborne failing to squeeze out some tears while watching Ethiopian famine footage on YouTube.

'Untitled'

This one's relatively long and quite gabber. Like I've been on a rain-lashed three-week camping holiday in North Wales with an aggressive, bossy calculator.

'Untitled'

It's just occurred to me that I might be about to become the first person on earth who's actually listened to this album the whole way through. It's not a great feeling.

'Untitled'

Telegram - still the world's most popular mode of communication in 1999 - for Alec Empire. Please, please, please stop.

Happy birthday, Nintendo Game Boy.  Let's never speak of this again.

You can follow Kit Macdonald on Twitter here: @kitmacdonald